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Ortlieb Duffle RS

Ortlieb Duffle RS

5.0 from 1 review

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Impressively expensive

As an emergency services volunteer I regularly travel to storm affected areas, sometimes on trucks with open cargo areas or on charter flights that are loaded and unloaded on the tarmac at regional airports. I need to pack quite a lot of protective clothing as well as my own personal gear, and I need it to stay dry.

Ortlieb have a great reputation for bike touring and expedition gear, and their regular waterproof duffel bags are tough and reliable, made in Germany from fully waterproof tarpaulin fabric with high quality Tizip drysuit zippers. They recently added some wheels to create the RG range (34, 60 & 85 litres with telescopic aluminium handles) and the RS range (85, 110 & 140 litres without telescopic handles).

The RS models rely on an integral foam tray (and your contents) to provide the required stiffness for towing, and save a little weight, bulk and cost in the process. I chose the 110 RS model as I had been using a similar sized bag from another brand and found it to be about right for me, given the quantity of gear I need to carry. Most folks would probably find a smaller model adequate. I paid $360 AUD including delivery.

Fully filled to its maximum theoretical dimensions the Ortlieb Duffel 110 RS would be a couple of cm over the total linear maximum of many airlines for checked luggage, but in the real world it isn't really big enough to attract that level of scrutiny - and would be nigh impossible to measure that accurately anyway. Even the 140 would probably slip through, unless someone took a real dislike to you at check-in.

The proportions of the 110 are good, it is surprisingly wide (much wider than my old duffel) which makes it really stable when wheeling and helps in finding your contents at the other end. It is a big empty bag with nothing inside other than a small pouch mounted on some cinch straps, and a small mesh pocket on the outside.

The zipper works exactly as advertised and is totally and utterly waterproof, dustproof and airtight. You can float down a river on it and your gear will stay dry. Access is assisted by some extra length that folds down at the ends, though it's still slightly less convenient than a full 3-sided zipper (but those aren't waterproof). It will also need treating periodically with something like 303 lubricant, as it is made from a rubbery material and will become harder to open and close if and when the lubricating film dissipates. However this is a small price to pay for the great balance of convenience and waterproofiness you get from a drysuit zipper over, say, a roll top drybag.

The foam tray works well and makes the bag rigid enough for towing as long as the bag's profile is filled out a bit with some contents - this causes the tray to form 'sides' and thus rigidity. Empty, the tray lays flat and the whole thing is too floppy to successfully tow, although it means the bag can be rolled up for storage in a way that other wheeled bags cannot. It's clever and it works.

Some other reviewers complain that the bag knocks into their legs when towing. I haven't found this to be the case, certainly it is no worse than with any other end-wheeled bag I've used - you just adapt your towing position (and the angle of the handle) to find a comfortable style. The wheels are probably the biggest you'll find on any luggage, and will breeze over rough, loose and uneven surfaces, and the aluminium scuff plate between the wheels protects the bottom edge of the bag from any terrain-induced damage.

I haven't used the backpack straps other than a short test, but they seem pretty comfortable (given the style of the bag) and would certainly be fine for lugging it as far as I'm likely to be walking between locations. They join up neatly to make an excellent one-hand carry handle, and this is the way I'll mostly be carrying it. Remember this bag is about getting your gear from one place to another, it's not a hiking backpack and lacks all of the padding and sweat management that a proper backpack gives you.

The only criticism I would have is that the bag is a bit 'strappy' - there are a lot of straps (4 on the shoulder pads, 2 on the towing handle) and they all have great adjustment range, but the loose ends all dangle in a way that invites getting caught in airport carousels, truck hardware, or other people's bags. I intend to add some velcro to the loose ends to be able to secure them out of harm's way, but it's disappointing that this hasn't already been done.

Otherwise the bag is impressively light for its size, tough, waterproof, really easy to move around and a pleasure to work with - if you can get past the price. I can't deduct a whole star for price and some dangly strap ends though, so I still give it 5/5.

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